Today was the perfect day for this stew. Despite my earnest promise of a crisp, clear fall day, we woke to gusty rain. Jason and I set off to Eastern Market and started cooking. I offer my sincere thanks to those of you who stood out in the rain, huddled under umbrellas, waiting 45 minutes from the first wafts of rich, beefy goodness until bowls of streaming stew were served up hot!
When I came across the inspiration for this stew, I was excited, but it disappointing. The pumpkin was flat and grassy. The beef? Barely there. Roasting the pumpkin and a homemade beef stock would solve the problem, as would slowly cooking the stew for three hours. While well worth the effort, the average weeknight doesn’t afford me the twelve hours a good beef stock requires. How to speed this up?
Carrots added with the squash brought out the pumpkin’s sweetness and a splash of cider vinegar brightened it up. Brandy, and miso paste added depth to the beef flavor, while butter – good, rich, creamy, grassy, Amish butter – gave the soup the richness it needed.
Beef and Pumpkin Stew
- 2 tbs vegetable
- 1½ lbs top sirloin, cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbs red miso paste
- 1/2 cup Brandy or Cognac
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 4 cups Fairytale or other eating pumpkin – or 1 medium butternut squash – cut in 1″ cubes,
- 6-8 cups stock
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- Cider vinegar
- 1-2 tbs butter
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Heat a 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over med-high heat. Add oil and heat until almost smoking. Cook beef in 2-3 batches, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Sear until brown. Remove beef to a bowl and reserve. The beef juices will brown on the bottom of your pot. Don’t worry, this is pure flavor!
- Add onion to pot, cook until soft. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add miso and carrot to pot. Toss and cook 1 minute longer.
- Add Brandy and deglaze, scraping up the rich brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Add squash, thyme, bay, reserved beef and stock just to cover the ingredients. Simmer until squash is soft, 30-45 minutes.
- Mash about half of the squash with an old fashioned potato masher and stir through the soup to thicken.
- Season to taste with a splash of vinegar, butter, and salt and pepper as needed. Serve sprinkled with parsley